Monday, February 4, 2008

Alan Sekula advises that you watch The Wire

It wasn't all that long ago when Alan Sekula stood up at a conference and asked poignantly, "Why is it that political theorists don't have as good as an analysis as The Wire?" His question resonated deeply in my mind as I witnessed, suddendly, two separate world colliding together in a swift stroke. I had been in Kassel when Okwei Enweazor and Alan Sekula spoke together on a stage about his Fish Story and his analysis of global capital. I appreciated Sekula and Enweazor's somewhat Marxist cultural theory, but well, Kassel? It all felt pretty corny and arty to me. But then, to have them understand that cultural mechanisms are happening outside the arts. MMMMM that smelled like tangible aggression. It all made sense. These worlds can collide. I get bored of the art world.

Stop. This phrase: the art world. Why do I continue such a thing? It could almost, but not quite, equate with my disdain for newspapers that validate the "war on terrorism". Such myths that only prop up the stupidity behind them. And to be clear about who is being stupid, it would be - the idea of an art world only props up the limited powers that be AND the idea of terrorism only props up the powers that be. The rest of us, meaning almost everybody, couldn't care less. Aside concluded.

So, the Wire. My favorite HBO show. It was once Deadwood which I must say was Shakespearean and character driven, at times trying to avoid the cliches of major media, at times failing in that pursuit, but ultimately, a completely revolutionary show. It opened the doors to the Wire as did the seminal television series The Sopranaos. It sounds almost pathetic, but the ability to have a flawed and almost hateful protagonist was a revolution in television drama. And also, in a more Marxist-Anarcho sense, the abilty to have a drama where the protagonist is aware of their place within the overarching scheme of power, that power is a field in which people must battle, this idea: it is useful and revolutionary.

Television drama? What a low hurdle we must cross... Nonetheless, when we do leap over it we feel absolutey ecstatic. It is like when Michael Moore has one of his over-driven propaganda films (that I love so much) where he assaults the power structure for being suckers to capital, and the anti-capitalist viewer sits there and thinks, "My god, this is what I think. Who the fuck paid for this?" It is this very 21st century feeling. Things can media-wise be ever topsy turvy. Rules were meant to broken in media land so what rule is held sacred? Hmmmm. I bet there are some.

So, the Wire. Ever watch it? Well, catch up. It is incredible. Not because it is a cop show. Who likes cops? Not because it sympathizes with exhausted educators. After Junior High School, I have trouble sympathizing with them. Not because of the tightly wound inequities of politics. Or the caught in the game ethos of Baltimore gangland. (although i must admit the show still makes being a gangbanger one of the more romantic positions in the show. maybe that is the case. I don't know) but alas, ultimately, no one wins. Power wins. It is a Foucualt/Bourdieu- inspired voyages, but more tangible. Bourdieu attacked sociologists as being caught up "in the game" but who would pay attention? Sociologists at a conference? Maybe. That is about it. Otherwise, he was shit out of luck. So, no worries, ideas can benefit from reasonable people like David Simon.

Because that is what is really happening right? Micro battles for power with larger logics of capital hovering over it. That is what is happening. But these micro-battles. The infrastructures outside our understanding. We need to understand their fights. But oh so many fights. How to compete with them all?


Miranda said...

Well, just a few misspellings. But you did pretty good for being in a daze.

Ryan said...

I agree with everything you just said. I tell people regularly that The Wire is the best television show ever, but I'm not sure that does it justice.

Jon said...

I also agree! it's true.